“Dean!” Sam yelled in surprise as Dean disappeared before him. He caught his brother’s abandoned beer bottle just as it was about to tip over and roll off the hood of the car. His hand still tingled with the feeling of Dean’s warm skin.
“What were you going to say?” Sam asked the empty night air. There wasn’t an answer, because Dean was gone, just as they’d guessed would happen. He finished off both of their beers, looked up at the night sky now filled with stars from horizon to horizon and tried to imagine what Dean’s answer would have been. Probably something self-deprecating about what a shitty job he’d done raising Sam, but maybe it would have been about them and how they were now. Together…but not together.
He groaned at himself going there again. He knew it was pointless, Dean had made it pretty damn clear. There couldn’t be anything between them, not with their Mom around. It wasn’t fair to either of them, but Sam had accepted his brother’s decision without a lot of discussion. He hadn’t wanted to make it come down to forcing Dean to choose between them or her. That wouldn’t have been right, not for any of them. But he still missed him, missed them, and that was never going to change, no matter what happened.
Sam rolled off the Impala’s hood and stowed the beer bottles and cooler back behind the driver’s seat. He got in and started her up, letting her familiar rumble soak into his bones. He flipped a u-turn and headed back to the bunker, letting her rip on down the road, pushing her to the limit, suddenly hit with the urgency of spending his time wisely, working out how to get them back to normal.
Sam served himself a big bowl of his brother’s chili and then sat down to read Dean’s research he’d left for him at his favorite library table. He wished Dean were here so he could make all the usual food appreciation noises. This was damn fine chili, he’d really figured out how to cook over the years they’d been living here. If Dean were here he’d tell him that just to watch him blush and stammer. It made Sam realize that since he couldn’t do that in the moment, he had to replace it somehow. Maybe it would help if he wrote it down. He grabbed up the research notes Dean had left and wrote down what he would have said out loud.
Dean, this chili, it is damn fine, and just what I needed right now. I’m sitting here alone, wishing I could tell you that. I know you’d probably get embarrassed at the compliment, but it’s true. And I’m just really impressed and grateful that you’ve figured out how to cook so well, you keep me fed, with good food that I really enjoy and I appreciate it. I know I never say it enough, but thank you. ~ Sam
After he finished reading Dean’s research on the bunker’s founding, he made a few notes for Dean, but couldn’t think of anything else to pursue on that topic. Sam pulled the braided lock of hair out of his pocket and set it on the table in front of him. This was what he was going to concentrate on. He gently probed the bare patch on the back of his head, it was still tender to the touch, but it seemed to be better than yesterday.
Sam first googled ‘braided hair supernatural’ and got a lot of things about elves. That was a place to start, he pulled out all the books he could find about elves and other Fae. He searched through them all for anything about creatures who took human hair. Pretty soon, he’d figured out that it was called an elf-lock or fairy-lock. That meant the culprit was likely a fae creature of some sort, and from what he could tell there were a few possible reasons it had yanked his hair out.
Elflocks were either completely benign, the knots the fairies left in sleeping children’s hair, or if intentionally braided like his had been, the beginnings of some sort of spell.
It had to have something to do with the disappearing/reappearing thing at dawn, right? He couldn’t find anything to connect those two things, but the fae creatures did seem to care a lot about the land they inhabited, and whose it was or how it was used. Maybe there really was a dispute between Mater Matuta and the Fae.
He found himself nodding off over the books, and reluctantly let himself do his nightly routine, a shower before bed, setting his alarm for an hour before dawn. He had to be out there with the car, otherwise Dean would have to walk back to the bunker in the dark and he’d never hear the end of it. Plus he wanted to see him, for all of the little time that they had together.
The next morning when Dean rejoined the world at dawn, Sam was there, waiting with a thermos of coffee, bless him. They sat in the Impala with the engine running and the heater on, drank the strong brew and strategized about who was researching what next. Neither of them brought up how much was left unsaid yesterday, as Dean had abruptly disappeared from the world for half the day.
Soon, he was back in the bunker, and he was exhausted even with the coffee. Dean went to sleep in Sam’s bed again, but all he could smell was himself. He’d been the last one to sleep there, the first day Sam had gone missing, which meant Sam hadn’t been sleeping since. It made him sad all over again, so he went back to his room, hoping that some Netflix would distract him enough to go sleep. The instant his head hit his pillow he could smell Sam all over it. It was even still a little damp from his brother’s usual night time shower. They’d argued about that so many times, why couldn’t he put a towel down at least? Instead he pressed his face into the pillow and breathed in deeply. Even though he’d just left Sam out there on the road, he still missed him. He just wished they could curl up together and go to sleep. That’d make it so much better.
When he woke up, he realized they were almost out of fresh food now, and Cas, Jack, and Mom were going to be out hunting for at least a few more days. He whipped up a leftovers casserole, using up everything left in the fridge. He sat at the table and read Sam’s note about his chili several times, the words warming him inside as much as the food.
He decided to leave Sam a note by the coffeemaker again.
Sam - Made a refrigerator casserole, so our larder is now bare except for the emergency cans of beans. But I’m heading out soon to resupply. Thanks for the coffee this morning, and your note yesterday, both of them made me feel warm inside. Yeah, yeah, I know, cheesy as hell, but that’s me and it’s the truth ~ D
Instead of researching the founding of the bunker any further, he decided it was more important to see if he could actually go to the grocery store. He drove out, in the usual easterly direction, along the road Sam jogged, and accelerated as he came up on the twelve mile marker. As he passed it, there was a sudden blast of light, and he knew no more.
Dean found himself waking up in the Impala, stuck at the mile twelve marker just as Sam appeared at the falling of dusk. He’d lost a day, and he hadn’t gotten the damn groceries. They were well and truly stuck.
“What happened?” Sam asked.
“I tried to go get us some groceries, cause we’re outta food, and I didn’t make it past the statue,” Dean said.
"Apparently we can’t leave the bunker’s consecrated land while we’re under this curse or whatever it is. I didn’t even think to try that last night,” Sam said.
“Well, now we know. I feel like shit though, like I got hit and knocked out with a wall of light.”
“Good thing the car wasn’t still running, or left on the road.”
“We’re lucky there isn’t a whole lot of traffic out here.”
“I can try driving in the other directions,” Sam offered.
“No, you better not, and save the gas. With all of them out in Georgia still, we’re going to need it, just to be able to get here and back twice a day.”
“How are we going to get food?” Sam asked.
“I’ll call those teenagers that we met in town, one of ‘em works at the grocery store. I’ll have them meet me here,” Dean said.
“Guess we’re too far out in the sticks for Post-mates or pizza delivery.”
“Yeah, that’s never been much of an option for we country-folk, right? Besides, we don’t want anyone to get too interested in figuring out exactly where we live. Those kids already know way more than they should.”
“Aren’t they going to wonder more about it, if you’re meeting up on the side of the road like this?” Sam asked.
“I’ll bring the cooler and tell them we’re going camping or something,” Dean said.
“That might just work.”
“We’ll see, the important thing is to keep us fed, right?”
“Yeah, you’re doing pretty damn good with that so far,” Sam said.
“Don’t get too excited, I made a refrigerator casserole, so at least there’s that for tonight. But I didn’t get any researching done,” Dean said.
“You’re awesome at this stuff,” Sam said.
“I’m not feeling so awesome at anything at the moment,” Dean said.
“No, I mean figuring out the practical stuff to keep us going. I’m off in research-la-la-land when I get into something, and I didn’t even think of it,” Sam said.
“Force of long habit, I guess,” Dean said.
“You’ve been doing it your whole life, haven’t you? I know you don’t like it when I thank you for stuff like this. But thank you, Dean.” Sam grabbed Dean into a hug that felt like a lifetime worth of thank you’s. It was glorious, and Dean didn’t want it to ever end. He hugged Sam back, hoping it said: ‘you’re welcome’ and ‘I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat’ but then it was his time to fade. Off he went into nothing, the phantom feeling of Sam in his arms, breathing into his skin the last thing that seemed real.
Sam felt his arms go empty as Dean faded into the night. It wasn’t fair, and he didn’t know how much more of this he could take. Saying hello and goodbye and trying to work all this out, much less work out all the baggage between them. It was exhausting and he just wanted Dean there, at his side. But that was too much to ask of the universe apparently.
After the six mile drive through the lonely night, Sam got back to the bunker and was surprised to find a white cat curled up, sleeping soundly on their doorstep. It lazily stretched and stood up when he unlocked the door. It slipped through before he could stop it.
The cat became an instant fixture of his life in this dusk to dawn, Dean-less life. It was there on the doorstep waiting for him the next night, and the night after. Sam couldn’t resist, he needed the company, even if it was just some random white cat. It gave him someone to talk to during the long nights alone at the bunker. He quickly got into the habit of letting it in, feeding it some of whatever Dean had left him for dinner, and even slept with it most nights on Dean’s bed. It was a comfort to have another being around to curl up with and talk to, even if it was just a cat.
He kept on with the research over those first few days and figured out that the fae creature who stole his hair was something called a lutin, a sort of hobgoblin of the home or land. It was likely imported from Quebec by a settler that had moved down to Kansas for the warmer, more hospitable weather. Through all this research the white cat became a welcome presence in the bunker, it became his research buddy.
The cat seemed to be completely obsessed with Sam’s hair, it spent most nights pawing at it and sleeping in it, right up against Sam’s head. Or sitting on the library table next to him, rubbing its face in his hair as he bent over the book he was reading. Sam didn’t make any connection between the cat’s appearance and the research, he was too starved for companionship. And a cat was just a cat, he had other things to worry about.
On his third night alone in the bunker, Sam called Rowena to ask if she had any advice about the dawn/dusk thing or the lutin. She was amazed to hear that they had managed to get stuck in something like their current unfortunate situation, but she had no suggestions on how to get out of it. She did call back later when he was in the shower, with a tip about the lutin though. He listened to the message on speaker, with the white cat curled up on his pillow.
“Samuel, I have some news about your little lutin friend. According to my readings in the Gospel of the Witches, you need to call on Artemis or Diana for help. Long ago, Diana had battled the lutin when he’d tricked a fairy princess and invaded an island of women guarded by amazons called the Island of Quiet Pleasures where she lived. He’s her sworn enemy and I’m certain she’d help you. I’m sure you’d have loved living there, eh, Samuel? Ta for now, good luck.”
The cat leaped up from the bed and streaked out of the room like its hair was on fire. Sam figured he was off on a mouse hunt, wished him success, and set his alarm for the usual pre-dawn hour so he could make the drive out to mile marker twelve. As he fell asleep, he remembered that he still had one of Diana’s arrows. He’d saved it from when they’d tried to save Prometheus and his son from Zeus. That night he dreamed of that arrow on the dashboard of the Impala as they’d driven home that night. How it had felt to realize that they’d finally had a home to drive to, together.
The next evening, he did a ritual, to summon Diana, and when she appeared, he offered her the arrow.
Diana was at first very pleased to see Sam, and to have her arrow returned. “I thank you, Samuel. It will be nice to return this to my quiver.”
“I’ve called on you because I’m having an issue with a lutin, and I heard you might know how to deal with one.”
“Long ago, I used to reside on the Island of Quiet Pleasures and because of what he’d done there, the lutin was now my sworn enemy. I vowed to destroy him if we ever crossed paths again.”
“I think this one moved with settlers coming down from Quebec,” Sam said, realizing just why Rowena suggested he call on Diana.
“Is he the one who plagues you?” Diana asked.
“I believe so, yes,” Sam said. He fumbled for the plait of his own hair and held it out to her. “He stole this hair from me.”
“He is appearing to you as a white cat, correct?” Diana asked.
“I…uh, I guess so. I hadn’t realized that was him, just thought he was a stray,” Sam said. He cringed at having allowed the thing to sleep on the bed with him every night.
“I do not imagine you would have called me here solely for this,” Diana said, gesturing towards the plait of hair.
“No, uh, there’s a fight going on between the lutin and a goddess you may know, Mater Matuta.”
“Please allow me to guess, she has entrapped you and your brother, dawn to dusk, am I correct?”
“Yes, that’s it, and we also can’t leave the area around this building,” Sam said.
“We warned her that it might come to this,” Diana said, shaking her head and frowning.
“We?” Sam asked.
“She wanted to make the jump to this new country, in search of new followers, new devotees, more worship, all of the things a neglected goddess longs for,” Diana said.
“The Men of Letters promised her all of that, in return for protecting this place, and then they all were murdered,” Sam said.
“Yes, but not quite all are deceased, there remains you and your anima genimae, your brother, no?”
Sam tried not to react to having the soulmate thing thrown out at him by yet another deity. He really should get used to that at some point and probably soon. It still felt like such deeply intimate and personal information, it was hard to get over that it was so obvious to all the deities they ever encountered. “And so she expects us to do what exactly?”
“Make all the sacrifices and obeisances she is still due from your people,” Diana replied.
“According to the records my brother dug up, she was expecting the yearly sacrifice of a fatted calf, and hours of monthly prayers over her statue. It’s been more than sixty years, so how the hell do we begin to make up something like that?”
“I do not see what Hel has to do with the matter, She likely has her own concerns in the Underworld,” Diana sniffed.
“Sorry, just a human expression, nothing to do with Hel. Tell me about making up the sacrifices and prayers, how do we do it? Can we try sacrificing one calf and praying, see if that’s enough to satisfy her?”
*****To Part 4